Dealing with difficult IT projects or IT projects that go off the rails

In Episode 60 of the Microsoft 365 Voice, we discuss how to handle difficult or broken IT projects.

Many of us have worked on projects with unclear (or unachievable) expectations, staffing/resource challenges, budget/delivery delays, or technical issues. Dealing with these difficult projects requires authenticity, strong communications, and the ability to remain calm in stressful circumstances. Listen in as Mike Maadarani, Antonio Maio, and I share our suggestions for dealing with IT projects gone wrong.

Key topics covered in this episode:

Being realistic

  • Assess how serious the issue is. Will it throw the entire project into a tailspin? Is it a showstopper?
  • Come up with steps to mitigate the issue. What should be done first? What can be pushed off until later?
  • Determine which issue(s) are the highest priority and tackle those first. What items are low on the priority/impact list? Determining a prioritized list of must-do’s versus nice-to-have’s will help you narrow your scope.
  • Identify your target audience & determine what’s most important for them. For some projects, timeline and delivery date is the highest priority. In other cases, you may be on a tight budget that cannot move. Determining who your key decision makers/customers are and focusing your efforts on their needs will help you deliver stronger results.

Keeping (or regaining your balance)

  • Take deep breaths. Frustration can come out in your voice during project meetings. If you’re feeling stressed, frustrated, or angry, take deep breaths to regain your footing.
  • Encourage others to stay calm. If you’re on a project meeting and you see others getting upset or frazzled, send them an instant message and ask if they’re OK. Be a coach and a cheerleader.

Being truthful

  • Be transparent and honest. If human error has impacted your project’s delivery, don’t try to hide it. Being honest about what’s gone right (and wrong) builds credibility and gives you a solid foundation of trust. Hiding the truth is incredibly hard to do (and will often blow up in your face).
  • Be pragmatic. Don’t inflate the impact of an issue. But also be realistic when issues are a big deal.
  • Focus on your credibility. Build goodwill with your project team, customers, and executive sponsors by being a truth-teller.

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